High-level administration officials and other federal employees can continue to conduct official business using secret government e-mail accounts, but the messages must be preserved electronically and turned over to the country’s record-keeping agency.

(Kiyoshi Ota - Bloomberg) (Kiyoshi Ota – Bloomberg)

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero told the House Oversight  and Government Reform committee Tuesday that his agency, the National Archives and Records Administration, clarified the rules this week on the use of private e-mail accounts. They must be turned over to anyone seeking them under the Freedom of Information Act, Ferriero said. The accounts must be “managed, accessible and identifiable” under federal record-keeping rules.

But the archivist told lawmakers that his agency “discourages the use of private e-mail accounts to conduct federal business.”

“Where a private e-mail account must be used…the federal records generated through these private accounts must be moved to the official record-keeping system of the agency as soon as practicable, and then managed according to the Federal Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and other legal requirements and their implementing regulations,” he said.

The regulations were made official after the Associated Press reported in June that some Obama administration Cabinet officials have used alternative e-mail accounts in addition to government addresses to conduct official business.